The 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was so good, so thrilling, so much of a storybook finish that it deserves one more skate around the ice:
Let's start with the desperation of Section 27 in the Fenway Park grandstand. Bruins fans were standing for the last dozen minutes of Friday's Jan. 1 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, craning necks, standing shoulder to shoulder, body-Englishing on every Boston shot on goal like Carlton Fisk goading his 12th-inning home run to go fair in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
"Just one!" yelled the fan in Row 4. He was wearing a floppy knit Bruins Winter Classic stocking cap with ear flaps.
"Seven minutes left and everybody is standing, look at this," said another fan up and over a bit in Row 5. "Just look at this."
"Come on, play like you are earning your money!" screamed a jersey-clad fan in Row 5. She almost immediately apologized to everyone nearby for "losing her head."
With 2:18 left -- and 26 seconds left on a power play -- winger Mark Recchi helped everyone lose their heads by tying the game on a pass from defenseman Derek Morris. Honestly, I thought the guy next to me with the Winter Classic ear flaps was about to kiss me on the head after the red light went on.
There was something about the way the late-afternoon light hit the Fenway rink in those final minutes of the third period. Bob Costas said it on NBC a bit later in the network's post-game coverage: The last minutes of the third period seemed like a bunch of kids trying to get up and down the ice a few more times before needing to go home for Mom's dinner call.
When Marco Sturm bagged the Classic winner in overtime, there were high fives, bear (or that Bruin?) hugs and fist bumps up and down the rows of Section 27. Nothing brings fans together like a hold-your-breath overtime victory on a near-perfect day for hockey–outdoors!–at one of America's cherished ballparks.
Of course, a B-2 stealth bomber can do the same. When the flyover occurred just before the puck drop and first period in Boston, no less than 20 grown men in the Green Monster seats atop the 37-foot left field wall ran from their primo seats to clasp chain-link and tried to spot the B-2 first. Frankly, the plane was overhead and sonic-zooming for a buzz-cut of the press box in a blink. Those 20 grown men spent the next few minutes comparing cell phone photos for a good five minutes afterward, plus basically exclaiming "Did you see that!" to each other.
More kid's stuff.
The view from the Green Monster was one of the best vantage points for the Fenway game. Up high enough to watch the play develop but you can still see the player's faces. And, come on, you are on top of the Green Monster, long the outfield home for Yaz and another Hall-of-Fame leftfielder, Jim Rice, who followed him.
Just a minute into the second period, two members of the NHL Ice Crew sprung up from their benches on the corner of the rink nearest the Monster to do some repairs on the faceoff dot left of Bruins goalie and Olympian Tim Thomas (who later would re-enter the ballpark victorious and draped in a USA Olympic hockey jersey, tears in his eyes). Both Thomas and a linesman appeared naturally curious about the repair work, gliding closer to the Ice Crew members as two of Dan Craig's best men worked with ice chunks and a fire extinguisher that sealed up the makeover job. The two ice experts were back in their own version of a bullpen less than two minutes later.
Sitting in the corner with the ice crew afforded larger-than-life views of Thomas making one point-blank save with his chest (oof!) and another with his mask (punctuated by a sound somewhere between "thwack" and "thud"). You would also see the puck skitter on the Fenway rink's lively boards and figure out how hard it is really is for a NHL goaltender to not only stop that unruly puck coming around the boards and back of the net, but the sheer tremble of attempting to control the puck and send it back the other way.
Here's a distinct feeling you get from sitting on the corner of an NHL rink at ice level: The rink corner can't hold these guys. Pretty much every shift ends with loud crashes, bounce-offs, clattering sticks and players simply falling squarely and hard on their butts
One more conclusion from the corner, ice-side: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara sure fills up the glass. He looked equally big from the Monster and Section 27, by the way.
Watching the NHL Ice Crew from a dozen feet away as they each crouched on one knee and tucked snow shovels in the crooks of their elbows was impressive. Their sprints out to the ice surface were choreography with shovel, trash cans and fire extinguishers. Think the coal miners "Solidarity" number in "Billy Elliot." The finishing touch was using those fire extinguishers with the vapor spraying out in rapid plumes.
Dan Craig, the NHL ice guru, looked calm leaning on a temporary fence near the end of the second period. He was asked if the Ice Crew ever practices what appears to be razor-shape and hyper-fast work.
"No, never," said Craig, breaking into a full-bearded smile. "What I enjoy about our team is each one of them knows what they are here for and that time is of the essence."
Same feeling everyone had in Section 27 during the third period.